Student 'attacked due to religion'
A teenage student attacked on board a Belfast bus was targeted because of his religion, his mother has claimed.
Protestant Stuart Buchanan, 16, required hospital treatment after being repeatedly punched in the face and body during the assault this morning.
Police have confirmed they are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime.
His mother, Zoe Buchanan sai d: "They recognised him as a protestant from Ballysillan. That's why they went for him."
Stuart, a pupil at Belfast Metropolitan College, had been travelling on the 11A bus from his home in the Silverstream area of Ballysillan to a campus at Lanark Way, just off the Shankill Road, shortly before 9am.
Ms Buchanan added: "As he was about to get off the bus one boy jumped up, pulled him back, spun him round and proceeded to hit him in the face. He then started to hit the rest of his body. It was only stopped when somebody else who was on the bus intervened."
The teenager claims he was intimidated by a gang of men who boarded the bus at Ardoyne. It is alleged one of the men told him he was a "dead man" before throwing a series of punches.
Ms Buchanan said her son was now too terrified to travel alone on public transport.
"He has already said he is not getting the bus again. He doesn't feel safe. I don't know what we are going to do.
"You think your son is safe going out to school in the morning but, for something like this to happen is just terrible. You are not safe at all."
The PSNI has confirmed officers are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime.
Chief Inspector Bobby Singleton, area commander for North Belfast, said: "This was a disgusting attack on a young man who was doing nothing more than trying to get to his work.
"The young man has attended hospital for injuries to his face which are not thought to be life threatening and officers are now taking a statement of complaint from him.
"Police are treating this as a sectarian hate crime and will be carrying out a thorough investigation."
North Belfast Progressive Unionist councillor Billy Hutchinson has condemned the attack.
He said: "The incident has now been reported to the PSNI and I hope they will investigate it rigorously and take advantage of any CCTV footage on the bus to identify the culprits.
"It is important that the community feels reassured given the increasing frequency of attacks."